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January 13, 2014

LINDLEY: Watching Maddux pitch was a treat for baseball fans

He will take his place in Cooperstown on July 27.

It was an early afternoon game at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati when I didn’t care so much who the Reds were playing or what the pitching match-ups would be. Just being at the stadium on a sunny day in July was a good thing — even if we were stuck out in the right-field stands.

Our distant seats did offer a view down into the visitor’s bullpen, where the San Diego pitchers were shuffling around. Some players moved onto the field, where they jogged across the green turf and later did some stretching. A pitcher and catcher started tossing a ball before they got serious and moved back to the bullpen, where the lobs became fastballs and preparation intensified.

At some point it became clear that Greg Maddux would start for the Padres — an unexpected bonus for those of us who had managed to escape from work for an afternoon.

Maddux was marvelous. Through five innings or so, he thew a few more than 60 pitches. The game was half over and just reaching the one-hour mark.

Maddux, then in his 23rd year as a major leaguer, made one perfectly placed pitch after another. All the Reds had to show were mostly weak grounders to the second baseman or shortstop. It was classic Maddux.

Then the Padres fell apart. A couple of singles put runners on base. A line-drive home run to left field scored two runs, and the Reds were off and running. It wasn’t long after that Maddux was out of the game, leaving Cincinnati to feast on San Diego’s relievers.

It wasn’t a winning afternoon for Maddux, but fans at the ballpark knew they had watched a great pitcher.

That memory resurfaced last week when news broke that Maddux was selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, along with pitcher Tom Glavine and first baseman Frank Thomas. They will be formally inducted on July 27 with three managers — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa.

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